"NO MUSLIMS ALLOWED"
Melissa Nussbaum (Dorchester, Massachusetts)
Hebron, West Bank, Palestine. We came to bear witness to the Israeli occupation of Palestine. I thought I had a grasp on the “situation” but without experiencing Hebron first-hand how could I have imagined the level of relentless discrimination and abusive military conduct?
In less than two hours we witnessed a constant barrage of arbitrary yet deliberate harassment.
Some examples of what we saw:
From the first moment we try to walk down the street together we are stopped by a soldier.
“No Muslims allowed.”
“We are Americans.”
“We are Americans.”
“Let me see your passports.” Another soldier shows up.
We are not Palestinians.
“It is separated by religions - this street is not for Muslims they must go the other way.”
Security? By segregation of religions? Our passports do not say our religion.
“If you go any further you will be arrested.”
We split up and meet up past the house that has been occupied by Jewish settlers. They are claiming to have bought one hundredth of a share in the building and therefore have rights to it. They walk about with heavy weapons hanging off their shoulders. They follow us to hear what our guide is explaining. Our guide welcomes them. He is fearless.
A young Palestinian boy chased off his bicycle by a white Israeli man in a white scull cap runs into our crowd crying. The man tries to take off with the bike. He clearly believes he has the right to do so. He doesn’t know that arch defender of human rights, Issa Amro, is our guide and Issa immediately calls out and demands the bike. In no time the Israeli army shows up and so does a religious Israeli man appearing out of a passing car to defend the perpetrator, an Orthodox Jewish Israeli, who admitted that it wasn't his but because the boy was riding on a Jewish only road it "might belong to a Jewish kid". We were all filming. I felt utter outrage for the abuse.
A Muslim man has already gone through the metal detector of the entrance to the mosque. He does so every day. Five times a day to sing the call to prayer. The Israeli soldiers know him. He is detained at a secondary checkpoint. He has to remove his belt. Maybe he will be late? The sun is beating down and the soldier is irritable.
We are returning to Jerusalem and we hear the unmistakable clatter of low flying military helicopters. Two of them headed back towards Hebron. We are frightened for what our friends might be experiencing. We find out that it is a Jewish holiday of remembrance, of fasting. The Jewish Israeli people of Hebron want to visit a grave that is in an area restricted to them so the Palestinian residents of Hebron are on lock down for several hours until the Jewish people safely return to their homes.
All of this and much more was hard to "just witness".